Neuroscience is providing teachers with a wealth of information on how the brain is impacted by a number of environmental variables and the notion that the internet has rewired how we think is becoming much more acceptable.
Whilst many educators may fear that the use of technology can distract learning and impact the social and emotional regulation of a child, it is my opinion that we need to harness computer science to build digital resilience, digital literacy and digital wisdom to equip our young people.
Research has suggested that ICT usage can have both positive and negative implications for well-being but that is dependent on the type of ICT being used. Generation X are digital natives, their gaming addiction has developed a nation of children with high levels of visual processing and motor response skills. Social communication has developed electronically however, children are now more at risk of unregulated and solicited commentaries from people the may or may not know.
The Children’s Media Foundation Report into the impact of digital technologies and well-being suggested that young people should have access to a curriculum that delivers skills for a ‘hygienic’ use of the Internet and digital technology. Emotional and physical well-being is influenced by daily experiences. According to childnet.com, “Technology and the internet should be there to enhance and simplify our lives rather than be a cause of distraction, worry or upset”. Digital wellness has to be a core part of our curricula to ensure that the choices children are making are for their betterment. Teachers who fear the distraction digital devices could be, misjudge the potential that technology has to increase well-being and the opportunity to develop skills that will be needed in the future.
In March 2019, OECD report into Well-Being in the digital age highlighted that in order to have a well-being benefit, people needed to be taught the right set of skills. The onus on schools is to teach new types of emotional and cognitive skills that will equip pupils in an evolving digital society.
Over the past number of years, our digital manifesto for school has focused on developing emotional and cognitive skills. We have increased the use of technology to not only support learning but also use it to develop health and well-being outcomes. Through establishing a whole school strategy to develop digital well-being we hope to give pupils the skills to regulate, relate and reason as the negotiate the online world.
Teachers need to teach digital wisdom about online safety to both pupils and parents.
From the age of 3 in our school, Digital Netiquette is taught to ensure that children understand how to behave online and how to be respectful to others when interacting digitally. We give opportunities for children to understand what is a healthy online relationship but also emphasise the dangers of pupils making personal information available via social media, web pages, YouTube videos or blogs.
Cyber resilience is also an important factor for pupils to understand as not every online interaction will be positive and pupils need to know the appropriate channels and support mechanisms when they don’t have a good experience.
Through having a whole school approach to digital well-being we have utilised online applications that can be used both at school and at home. We believe that wellness and physical activity are important factors to increase well-being. Digital innovations can boost pupil health and happiness. Giving pupils lessons to self regulate using educational technology has improved behaviour across the school. Mindfulness, yoga, dance and exercise apps are integrated into daily lessons. Mindful Monday, Think Fit Tuesday, Well-Balanced Wednesday, Take Care Thursday and Feel Good Friday is our general guide to ensuring the whole school approach to using ICT to increase health and well-being. We also teach about acceptable amounts of screen time and how good it can be to put our devices down to enjoy the outdoors or to play with a friend.
Dr. M Williamson, co founder and director of action for happiness highlighted that children’s mental health is vitally important. “Happier children learn more, cope better and are more likely to reach their potential”. It is hoped that by teaching children how to rebalance and repurpose their use of technology we are giving them the skills that they will need as citizens of the future.